So it's January, the combine is less than a week away and it's officially time to quit looking back and start looking forward. We've seen what the biggest stories of 2012 were, but what are the biggest questions heading into 2013? I'm going to have two different posts looking at the five biggest storylines to watch on the field today and tomorrow I'll have the five biggest storylines to watch off the field in 2013.
5. Can Peter Luccin Shoulder the D-Mid Load?
As I've said before, I think this starting lineup, when healthy, can compete for a championship. There is one huge question mark, however, and that is at defensive midfield. When Frenchman Peter Luccin was signed, most thought he would probably come in to compete for a starting spot with others, but it seems now that Luccin is the guy at defensive midfield for FC Dallas.
He's got a great pedigree in La Liga and Ligue 1, but there's still a huge question as to whether the midfielder who turns 34 in April can play in MLS and hold up until the end of the season. Behind Luccin, there's really not a lot of depth at defensive midfield with Bobby Warshaw as his backup and Victor Ulloa still in the mix as well.
4. Will Ugo Ihemelu Return to a Full-Time Starting Role?
At this point, it seems exceedingly likely that Ugo Ihemelu is going to give it a go in pre-season as he returns from concussion, though we will know more when pre-season starts in a couple weeks. What remains a big question is whether Ihemelu can make it through the whole pre-season and take back his starting role on the FC Dallas back line. Likely making a transition to right back in 2013, a healthy Ihemelu would mean some serious depth for the Dallas defense.
Edit: Fernando Clavijo had some words that have put Ihemelu's return into doubt. Ugo told me a couple weeks ago that he felt good and wanted to be back, but we'll have to track this situation.
3. Is David Ferreira a 2013 MLS MVP Candidate?
David Ferreira returned from a 15-month layoff looking like he'd hardly missed a game. With nine assists in the second half of the season(Ferreira had more assists/90 minute in the second half of the season than any other MLS player), the Colombian showed his value to the team, but a combination of tired legs and the usual fouling treatment hampered Ferreira in the biggest games at the end of the year.
Ferreira has said he will be 100% in 2013 and if he is, there's no reason why El Torito can't challenge for the MLS MVP award in his first full season since winning it back in 2010.
2. Can Chris Seitz Lock Down the Starting GK Spot?
Unless something crazy happens, all signs point to FC Dallas riding Chris Seitz as the starting goalkeeper in 2013. Richard Sanchez may push for the starting spot by the end of the season, but Seitz is the man as things currently stand. So the big question becomes, can he lock down that starting spot that he wasn't able to do with Philadelphia? The situation here in Dallas is 10X better than the one under Peter Nowak and Seitz showed well in his chances this season, but it's still a huge risk for Dallas without any veteran depth behind him.
1. What Kind of Season will Brek Shea Have?
For me, Brek Shea is the X-Factor in 2013. If he is even close to 2011 form, FC Dallas is an MLS Cup contender as Shea is simply a terror for any defense. Surround him with Ferreira, Perez, Jackson and Castillo, and the offense is up there with any in the league. On the flip side, he will be almost 6 months removed from his last MLS game when he returns to the field and it will take him some time to get back to match fitness. However, as we all know, the second half of the season is what really matters in MLS and if FC Dallas can be good enough to stay in the hunt, the injection of a healthy Shea could push this team over the top.